Following celebrities to the deepest of oceans and highest of mountains
So I wrote to Global Green USA last week to get their feel on what is probably the most effective environmental mascot in the modern world: the very-much-loved “celebrity environmentalist”.
Global Green enjoys the support of many Hollywood A-listers such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton on their Board of Directors. With headquarters operating in L.A., it is almost unsurprising that they have a few (okay, maybe a bit more than a few) committed celebrity figures to join the fight against climate change, deforestation or species extinction.
Truthfully, I am a bit sceptical about these famous, busy, glamourised people of the stage and music. I keep thinking they are only doing it to increase their popularity. Aren’t they getting paid for voicing these clever environmental statements conveniently scheduled and scripted by their cleverer agents? Can you say, “Hidden agenda”?
But one needs to look beyond the obvious. People, especially those who rely on popularity as their livelihood take immense risks when supporting a cause, simply because their interest may not align with that of their entire fan base or with the companies that hire them to endorse their products. But then again, what die-hard fan would stop supporting their idol because the artist decided to speak green?
Though sceptical, I am aware that there are many who go above and beyond the standard special guest appearance of smile-and-wave, who tell you with their polished acting skills to “respect nature”. And because of that, my scepticism is reigned in by the benefit of the doubt.
In the end, it may very well be a publicity stunt, but it does not come without risk for the celebrities themselves.
Being ‘green’ does not carry the same associations as it did three or four decades ago. Back then being green meant you were either a hippy, a radical conservationist, or just inexperienced in the ways of the world. Nowadays, it simply means you care and put in that extra effort. You are aware of what’s happening to your surroundings and empathise with those that suffer in whatever their circumstances are, be it the people next door or strangers thousands of miles away.
Undertaking conservation - serious conservation – is exhausting. It is an incessant activity where you need to be focused and passionate about the very things you try to preserve or save. And even though I quirk a proverbial eyebrow when watching some big-shot tell me how their campaign will make a world of difference at some red carpet event, my faith is restored by seeing the likes of Kristen Bell making her way to Northern Ethiopia to touch base with the people she is crusading for.
While trying to get my head around the whole celebrity-turned-activist thing, I realise that celebrities have vast networks and resources and are mighty players in the realm of environmentalism - roll eyes to the obvious. They are perceived as role models to the impressionable youngsters of today. And if Hollywood heavyweight Leo proudly drives around in a Prius, then it is cool enough for the rest of us to drive one too. Logic would suggest this much.
However, Leo seems to fit in an entirely new league when it comes to campaigning for the environment. His own foundation has committed to raising millions of dollars to preserve wildlife. His Save Tigers Now campaign that kicked off in May 2010 is one of particularly high interest. And with the Ohio incident freshly imprinted in our minds, it has once again shown that current regulations are inadequate to offer protection to these exotic - endangered - animals.
It’s not rocket science as to why celebrities are such big successes in speaking for the environment. They have a huge number of fans and with Facebook and Twitter in the mix it just opens up a whole new realm of interactivity. There are nearly 1,645,000 direct DiCaprio followers on Twitter. His messages reach out to more than one and a half million people in just one Tweet.
And that is the power of a celebrity, I suppose. People care about things they say. And ultimately, this is exactly what the environment needs, for people to care enough to act.
Celebrities are tools in the battle to preserve our natural heritages. Willing and eager tools, fortunately. It
doesn’t take away from the fact that I will regard the majority to use environmentalism as a tool in return. However, some part of me does acknowledge that regardless of their intentions, ethical movements are put into action and we are a step closer to a sustainable world. Perhaps some gratitude is in order after all.
How sceptical are you about celebrity environmentalists?